Century of Change Part III
Part 14 in a series
Excerpts from "Divers Information on The Romantic History of St. Croix" by Florence Lewison, 1963, St. Croix Landmarks Society.
BUDDHOE. During the slave rebellion several other figures emerged as heroes, honored to this day with loving memory in folk legend and song. One of these was Buddhoe, whose actual origins may never be known. His real name was Moses Gottlieb, but history knows him as General Bordeaux or buddhoe. He was a young, intelligent and handsome Negro, a skilled sugarboiler at Estate La Grange.
Buddhoe was reputedly a friend of Governor von Scholten's and it was this fact that later made the Governor's critics accuse him of complicity in the revolt for freedom.
When the conch shells blew and the bells rang, the Negroes had left their estates and headed for Frederiksted Fort. Buddhoe led the early morning march, yet he controlled the mob. Legend has it that he wore a colorful uniform, carried a sabre and rode a white stallion. The workers carried their cane cutting "bills" and some had fire brands. Buddhoe forbade burning or plundering and gave orders that no white person was to be killed.
Later in the morning, the Danish Fire Chief, Jacob Gyllich, and Frederik von Scholten who was a brother of the Governor, joined with Buddhoe in helping to control the huge mob which rallied at the Fort demanding freedom and offering to burn the town unless given it.
After the actual Freedom Proclamation was read by the Governor, most of the mob dispersed noisily but peacefully to celebrate. One band of rioters, however, called "The Fleet" began roaming the countryside burning and plundering in the center of the island under the leadership of a man named King.
Buddhoe and Major Gyllich confronted the band at Estate Slob, and in the turmoil Buddhoe saved the Major's life. For days the two men ranged the island telling the Negroes of their freedom, quelling the mobs and appealing for order. By July sixth, the militia had been reinforced by troops from St. Thomas and Puerto Rico.
It was a matter of time until the officials would arrest Buddhoe. Major Gyllich took him to his home for safekeeping against retaliation from officials or planters. When they did come for him, the Major insisted on riding to Christiansted with him and for a few days shared his prison cell as a protest.
Buddhoe was interrogated for weeks, but staunchly refused to implicate Governor von Scholten in the uprising. The new Governor, sent to investigate the whole situation, decided to deport Buddhoe. Major Gyllich and others gave him money and clothing before he was sent aboard a Danish Man o'War. He was quickly parted from the money and clothing and put in irons. Records show he was put ashore at Trinidad, penniless and with old clothing. It is thought that he moved later to Grenada island and died there - but on St. Croix the belief also persists that he went to the United States.
THE AFTERMATH. Freedom did not bring with it all the things the Negroes had hoped for, nor all the things the planters had feared. It brought a long series of compromises. Events simmered down, but slowly. Life did not go back to normal and a long period of readjustments began. There were new Labor Regulations drawn up for the freed population and it took several years to work out all the issues.
The Negroes found they had to work as usual if they wanted to eat and take care of their families. The planters found it cost them no more to pay wages and provide housing than it had cost them to support the slaves.
The laborers grumbled because they had to sign on for one year at a time and did not have quitting privileges except on each October first on Contract Day. On this day they could change employers. The terms were the same on all plantations.
Twice the government arranged for the importation of "coolie" labor from India - in 1855 and 1863 - this provided a fresh labor supply under a contract with the Indian government.
A few years later a great fire in Bassin, as Christiansted was still called, destroyed thirty- six dwellings, the Anglican Church in part and a schoolhouse.
As if this weren't enough, the worst year in island history, 1867, was a year of one disaster after another. Yellow fever, smallpox and cholera were raging in St. Thomas and St. Croix had to bar ships from her sister island. A servere hurricane hit here in October. All this was climaxed by the great earthquake in November which came in two severe jolts. The sea receded, leaving its bed quite bare, and then according to an early historian "gathering itself up into one mighty ocean wall it came toppling over in immense rollers, carrying all before it. Schooners, brigs, boats and skiffs were washed ashore ...at Gallow's Bay, twenty houses were demolished."
Frederiksted inhabitants were shocked to see the U. S. warship "Monogahela" sitting inland about where the market now is. Eventually they dug a basin around her and a canal to the sea and floated her back again!
Calamity followed calamity. Next there were several years of poor crops and at times the island was on the verge of bankruptcy. Then - another terrible hurricane in 1876.